press release

SAN FRANCISCO, January 10, 2008—On March 29, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) opens a daring new exhibition titled The Way That We Rhyme: Women, Art & Politics which showcases the politically charged work of a new generation of women who use creativity as a form of empowerment or a means for making social change. Curated by Berin Golonu, YBCA’s associate visual arts curator, The Way That We Rhyme features twenty artists and artist groups who unapologetically assert themselves and address a range of issues from the personal to the global. While the works are influenced by the feminist ideologies and activist movements of the past, they also speak loudly and clearly to the issues facing women right now.

The Way That We Rhyme includes painting, sculpture, photography, video, installation, music and live performance from a selection of local, national and international artists and artist groups. The show emphasizes the collective and collaborative process as a way to empower individuals in a group, performative acts as a form of resistance, and how issues of representation pertain to gender politics and queer politics. An opening night party is scheduled for Friday, March 28 from 8-11 pm. A full day of events, titled The Way That We Rhyme in Motion, including gallery tours, panel discussions, film screenings, workshops and interactive performances is scheduled for the opening day on Saturday, March 29.

OPENING DAY EVENTS: THE WAY THAT WE RHYME IN MOTION From noon to 10 pm on March 29, the opening day of the exhibition, YBCA presents The Way That We Rhyme in Motion, a full day of events to accompany the exhibition. Activities during the opening day include gallery tours, panel discussions, film screenings, workshops and interactive performances by artists including Vaginal Davis, MK Guth, LTTR, Stephanie Syjuco and others. A ticketed performance in the evening, starting at 8 pm, will include Nao Bustamante and Julie Atlas Muz. Visit to learn more.

“The Way That We Rhyme showcases contemporary work with a political conscience, and is organized around artistic strategies utilized by women artists to meet political aims and bridge art with life.” says YBCA’s Associate Visual Arts Curator Berin Golonu. “These strategies are linked in the past and carry forward into the present, offering an amazing range of diversity in the work, both aesthetically and in terms of subject matter.”

The Way That We Rhyme is part of YBCA’s Identity Shifts series, one of the three Big Ideas that guide this season’s programming. The Identity Shifts series features artists who explore the ideas of race, gender, nationality. Once concrete identifiers, these terms are now, to some degree, open to interpretation. The rise of religious extremism, the conflict between cultural identity and national borders, the rejection by many of traditional gender roles and labels, has plunged the world into a clash between embracing strict boundaries or celebrating fluidity and complexity. By disrupting the status quo and exploring deeply their sense of self, the artists in this series ask us to rethink how we know who we are, and what we think we can be.

Collective and Collaborative Practices A central focus of the exhibition is the way women artists use collective or collaborative practices to amplify their voices, generate dialog and distribute messages out into the world. Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz showcase “Restricted Access,” an archive containing ephemera of feminist artistic practice from the 1970s to the present. Lacy and Labowitz invited a younger generation of women artists, critics and curators to look through their archive to talk about how the information conveyed in these documents are familiar to or contrast with their experiences as women and artists in contemporary society. The responses of the younger women, captured in video interviews, are on display along with the archive itself.

Miranda July originally initiated the video chainletter Joanie 4 Jackie as a way to encourage other young women filmmakers to share their work with another, and to promote each others careers. The Joanie 4 Jackie archive now includes over 150 short films sent from women to one another around the world, and is housed at Bard College. July has worked with Shauna McGarry to edit a best of Joanie 4 Jackie and this compilation will be displayed in the gallery along with original zines, posters, and other ephemera made by the filmmakers.

Also included is work by other women-driven collectives such as subRosa, the Toxic Titties and LTTR, who often collaborate with a broader group of artists and individuals to vocalize and achieve shared goals.

Performance of Gender and Identity The notion that gender and identity can be performed is integral to The Way That We Rhyme. Several of the artists in the show perform their gender, their identity and their sexual preferences for audiences or in front of the camera so as to politicize the personal. Laurel Nakadate is a video artist whose work concerns itself with the psychoanalytic dimensions of seeing and being seeing. Her work exposes, satirizes and subverts the voyeuristic structure of narrative cinema. She is both the subject and the object in her videos, acting out games with highly charged power dynamics between herself and various men.

Vaginal Davis is a drag performance artist and experimental film maker who undertakes spectacles of femininity, queerness and blackness to complicate and problematize mainstream culture and identity. The exhibition features Davis’ Present Penicative, a bedroom installation that the artist refers to as a “vagina dentata.” Davis will be hosting two separate salons for the public in her vagina dentata on March 29, one for the women, and one for the men.

Nao Bustamante’s performances and video installations highlight the literal pain at the heart of female and queer embodiment. She often pictures herself in tragicomic scenarios undergoing ritualistic forms of self-inflicted violence. The Way That We Rhyme includes Bustamante’s video installation Neapolitan, in addition to a live performance with the artist on the evening of March 29.

Appropriation as a Form of Resistance Many of the artists in The Way That We Rhyme practice forms of appropriation and intervention to push their political agendas forward in a guerrilla fashion. Deborah Grant’s work appropriates the images of famous male artists from the canon and reworks these images to have them address histories that the artist can identity with. Grant’s “A Gin’s Cure,” an anagram for the title of Picasso’s famous painting Guernica, combines Picasso’s compositional elements with ephemera referencing her African American heritage and culture.

Also included in The Way That We Rhyme is Stephanie Syjuco’s “The Counterfeit Crochet Project.” Syjuco posted instructions on her website on how to knit counterfeit luxury accessories in crochet, offering the public a do-it-yourself alternative to investing in corporate brands. A good number of people followed her instructions to create one of a kind, luxury rip-off masterpieces, and Syjuco has assembled a selection of these accessories for display in the exhibition. A warning: even though many of these items are exquisite, none can be bought or sold. In order to own a work of Counterfeit Crochet, gallery visitors must learn how to make the items themselves. Syjuco plans to hold a series of workshops at YBCA in which she’ll be teaching gallery visitors how to crochet their own counterfeit designer accessories.

The Riot Grrl punk movement originated in response to the male dominated culture of punk rock as an intention to create spaces of inclusion and respect for female musicians. Zine-making was an important component of building networks and distributing the messages of this sub-culture to other interested parties, both nationally and internationally. Zines also offered young women their own media outlet, and allowed them to define their work, their music, their subculture and their agendas on their work terms, without having their messages diluted by the mainstream media. On view will be a selection of influential Riot Grrrl zines on loan from several collections, including that of the Independent Publishing Resource Center, Portland.

A full list of artists exhibiting work in The Way That We Rhyme: Women, Art & Politics includes: Lisa Anne Auerbach, Andrea Bowers, Nao Bustamante, Tammy Rae Carland, Vaginal Davis, Eve Fowler with Math Bass, Deborah Grant, MK Guth, Taraneh Hemami, Miranda July with Shauna McGarry, LTTR, Leslie Labowitz with Suzanne Lacy, Aleksandra Mir, Laurel Nakadate, Shinique Smith, subRosa, SWOON with Tennessee Jane Watson, Stephanie Syjuco, The Toxic Titties and Jessica Tully.

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The Way That We Rhyme: Women, Art & Politics

mit Lisa Anne Auerbach, Andrea Bowers, Nao Bustamante, Tammy Rae Carland, Vaginal Davis, Eve Fowler / Math Bass, Deborah Grant, MK Guth, Taraneh Hemami, Miranda July / Shauna McGarry, LTTR , Leslie Labowitz / Suzanne Lacy, Aleksandra Mir, Laurel Nakadate, Shinique Smith, subRosa , SWOON  / Tennessee Jane Watson, Stephanie Syjuco, The Toxic Titties , Jessica Tully